The designer of the Daleks has died (BBC) BBC

The designer of the death-dealing Daleks that have terrified generations of Dr Who fans has died, aged 84.

Ray Cusick, who was production designer on the cult series from 1963 to 1966, died in his sleep after a short illness at his home in Sussex, his family said in a statement.

After starting work on the first series of Dr Who, he was asked by series writer Terry Nation to give shape to the Daleks, a legion of mechanical beings that had turned on their scientist creator and killed him.

In an interview with the BBC in 2008, he discussed the story that he had conceived the look of the Daleks by moving a pepper pot around a table.

"Ever since then people say I was inspired by a pepper pot - but it could have been the salt pot I picked up," he said.

"When I'm asked what I was inspired by I suppose it was really a system of logic because I realised that you've got to have an operator to operate them. If you had anything mechanical, 10 to one on the take it would go wrong, so you've got a human being in there who would be absolutely totally reliable."

He went on to give them their bobble-like sensors, eye-stalk, sucker, and exterminator weapons.

The official Doctor Who Magazine tweeted: "It's with great sadness that we report the death of Ray Cusick - the designer of the Daleks. Half a century on, his iconic design lives on."

Doctor Who actor and writer Mark Gatiss tweeted: "Farewell to the great Ray Cusick. His passing is especially sad in this anniversary year but his creation remains immortal. Daleks forever!"

The creations went on to become instantly recognisable pop-cultural icons, with their robotic "exterminate" death call imitated by generations.

They remain one of the Doctor's most formidable adversaries, with their design remaining largely unchanged for the sci-fi show's revival in 2005.

After Dr Who, Cusick worked on shows ranging from Z Cars, Dr Finlay's Casebook and The Forsyte Saga to The Duchess of Duke Street, When the Boat Comes In and Rentaghost. He retired in 1987.